COVID-19 is threatening to become a global catastrophe of “untold human suffering” beyond anything seen so far, a report from Christian Aid says.
Governments need to work together on a scale similar to that of the reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War, if the inequalities that the pandemic has created are to be reversed, the report, Building Back with Justice: Dismantling inequalities after Covid-19, says.
Having examined the impact of the pandemic so far, Christian Aid argues that what is now a crisis in the world’s poorest countries “threatens to escalate into a catastrophe that will cause untold human suffering, entrench inequalities and slow any recovery”.
The poorest and most marginalised communities are “disproportionately” affected both by the virus and its economic aftermath, the charity says. These include women, minority-ethnic groups, those on the margins, such as the Dalit community in India, and refugees and migrants. According to the report, about 40 per cent of the global population lack access to home hand-washing facilities to help them protect themselves against the virus.
Food crises were already causing suffering in Africa, Yemen (News, 24 July), and elsewhere before the onset of Covid-19. Christian Aid forecasts that more than a quarter of a billion people will now face acute hunger this year.
The report has the support of church leaders, including the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies; the General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, Bob Fyffe; the leader of the Iona Community, the Revd Ruth Harvey; and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, the Rt Revd Dr Martin Fair.
The General Secretary of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, the Ven. Joseph William Kofi de Graft-Johnson, described Covid-19 as a “wake-up call to humanity”.
In a foreword to the report, he writes: “Both church and society have been challenged to rethink the way we live and how we cooperate, and to evaluate our responsibilities in the world. Ahead of us lies that open door to a new world. Leadership of a different sort will be required to reject old systems based on who gets there first, and instead to those that ask, ‘How do we all get there?’
“For we have already seen that when we are not united on any global challenge, we are bound to fail. We cannot squander this opportunity to reshape our world and reimagine a future that considers the intrinsic God — given the worth of each individual as a starting point.”
Christian Aid is calling for the poorest countries’ debt to be cancelled, and for the introduction of wealth taxes.
Inroducing the report, an economist, Dr Jayati Ghosh, writes that, although the current state of the world looks “dystopian”, the international community could meet the challenge if it was united. “The world has come together before to address grave problems and seemingly insurmountable differences. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the bloodiest conflict in history, the experience of loss and destruction was met with a bold international commitment to a better future.”